Rebekah LeeJan 17, 2022
Health, Healing and Illness in African History
Bloomsbury Academic 2021
In Health, Healing and Illness in African History (Bloomsbury, 2021), Rebekah Lee makes an overall assessment of the history and historiography and health, healing and illness in the African context. This unique text is divided in two parts. In the first half of the book, Lee presents a chronological survey and analysis of the ideas and literature that multiple disciplines have produced while studying the experience of health and illness, as well as medical and healing practices in Africa. This part of the book guides readers through seminal questions about African agency and sources that are central to our understanding of the historiography of Africa in general, and to the study of healing and illness in particular.
By starting her narrative in the precolonial past, Lee is not only trying to highlight the value of the research that has been done in this area, but also provide the reader with a wider intellectual and chronological context that can reframe our reading of the literature that exists for the colonial and postcolonial periods. In the second part of the book, Lee examines four case studies each focused on a particular health problem: HIV/Aids, mental illness, malaria and sleeping sickness, and occupational lung disease. In each of these individual studies, Lee offers both a historiographical review and a critical assessment of the ideas and questions that have shaped our views of these issues. She also offers examples of primary sources that illustrate the complex ways in which scholars, from many different disciplinary backgrounds, have used them to draw conclusions about how Africans have experienced health and illness, and engaged with a wide range of healing practices over time.
Esperanza Brizuela-Garcia is an associate professor of history at Montclair State University.